Friday, December 29, 2006

Bribing Bloggers.....(and Analysts?)

Joel ( a top notch New York blogger) has posted a very interesting piece on what he call's the 'bribing of bloggers' it is well worth a read.

What Joel discusses is moves by Microsoft to treat bloggers as influencers - and basically extend top bloggers with the same privileges as Industry Analysts. These privileges extend to flights and first class hotel and dining at the vendors events, plus in many cases lots of freebies (cell phones, laptops)
In reading Joel's piece he makes no mention of Analysts and I am not sure if he is aware that what he describes is everyday business for analysts at Gartner, IDC and Forrester etc.

Indeed it was my regular life for six years with Ovum (though I never accepted cellphones, laptops etc) - and now I have made the choice to work with CMS Watch, and politely refuse any offer of generosity by vendors.

I think the CMS Watch way is the right way, I think genuinely reaching out and involving the user community (buyers, integrators and consultants) is the right way to do analysis. I still speak to the vendors, and would not be able to do my job properly otherwise - but I am hopefully not in anyway compromised when I do.

I don't blame Microsoft for reaching out to Bloggers in this way, and they are not the only ones doing this - all major vendors are working out how to deal with the blogger phenomena - and some are pondering if the old Industry Analyst hegemony is as solid and important as they once thought. Its a difficult time for vendors, and Microsoft shouldn't be beaten up over this - they are simply offering to influential bloggers what they and all their competitors have offered to Analysts for years....and if this is not the right thing to do, then the bloggers should advise Microsoft and the others as to what would work, as I am sure they will get a listening ear..

Friday, December 22, 2006

An ECM Report for ECM Buyers in 2007

As 2006 draws to a close, its getting dark outside, and I am getting a little sleepy from being overheated by my log burning stove, and the smell of woodsmoke. In this twilight world where I dream of getting chapters written, and deadlines met - I am also thinking about all things I have not done in 2006 and await me in 2007....

Things that I hope some kind hearted readers of this blog might consider helping me out on!

Compiling a list of relevant ECM standards for the Report (turn out this is easier said than done) - I have the JSR and DOD stuff all listed but then it all starts to get a bit hazy....

Finally writing an article for somebody on the complexity and standards of engineering manual authorship (SR1000D and all that)

Getting brave and taking up the challenge to really look at security from an ECM perspective.

Eventually punching the next person who says " ECM - thats the same as KM "

Dealing with the vendors when they see the final draft of their evaluations and as always don't like them (not the most fun part of this job)

Finding out more about non US and non Euro Centric ECM systems - I know they are out there - Japanese ECM vendors?

Meeting the ECM Report deadline - and it selling in truckloads

On reflection though 2006 as been a productive and eventful one -

My time at Wipro was really good and I am fortunate to have left, but stayed friends with so many

AIIM, CMF2006 and ECM Plaza were all very positive experiences as a speaker and attendee

Cover article 'Hide What's Inside' was particularly sweet as it was a devil to write

ECM is Dead, Long Live ECM article for CMS Watch really struck a chord with so many

I joined CMS Watch and so far so very good

Amassed a lot of American Airline points and a lot of Marriott points too (on a weekend to Vermont my family and I stayed at a Residence Inn and I hated it because it felt like I was at home - true story)

This blog became something positive in its own right, something I never expected

So as an ECM Analyst/Advisor/Consultant/Writer/Speaker/Shaman I am very much looking forward to 2007. The industry is in the midst of so much change and the future is very bright indeed. More importantly, following on from my work at Wipro and Ovum I am really fired up about working on behalf of technology buyers without compromise, or hidden agendas - with CMS Watch and with APS, what you see is what you get...

So to everyone - have a wonderful Christmas and a terrific New Years !

Friday, December 15, 2006

Poll on Open Source ECM

The outcome of my little poll here on the impact Open Source options will have on the ECM market is as follows:

Pretty overwhelming result then really! And if it means anything (and I would not place too much value on it) then I guess it is telling us that buyers are getting smart and the Open Source is simply another option to consider.

In truth the polling numbers weren't that high (under a 100) but its interesting nonetheless. That great book, 'Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics' would love such specialist polls and their outcomes. Yet even though this is far from scientific its probably as good as some polls we see come from more mainstream sources on the topic.

Personally I had thought that lowered software license costs would have polled much higher - but hey that shows how much I know :-)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Chosing vendors for the ECM Report

I threw a little stone in the pond on Friday (see CMS Watch Blog) regarding the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for ECM. I guess it was late in the day………

Anyhow, I now feel that I really ought to be as open as possible about how I am writing the forthcoming ECM Report, in particular how I am deciding who to include and not to include. Most important for me and CMS Watch is that the process is transparent.

First up – coming up with a workable list is much harder than it might seem, and the one that is currently on my desk probably bears no resemblance to the one I sent Tony Byrne last week! But nevertheless there is in effect more than one lists.

The first is those that without whom the ECM Report would make little or no sense. Therefore the major ECM vendors such as EMC, OpenText, Interwoven etc etc constitute the logical top tier, and will be covered in depth. After this I will cover those who are currently disrupting the market and importantly getting the ear of ECM buyers (the buyers are after all who I am writing this report for). The key disruptive vendors currently include Alfresco and Oracle (particularly with the pending Stellent acquisition) – and then I have a third tier, those that are solid established and high value players but tend to play in a particular geographic or industry niche, included here might be Formtek for Cimage – they may not be as well known as the tier one and two vendors, but in the right circumstances should be considered for the short list.

My hope is that the report will meet the needs of 90% of ECM product buyers ( I can never make everyone happy) and that third tier group will likely grow as new versions of the report are issued over time. Likewise the tier 2 (disruptive) vendors may also change as some will prove to have little longevity, and others come into play.

In the CMS Watch, ECM Report that we hope to publish in Spring 07, we also want to be sure that we are sensitive to geographic variations (EVER in France and Spain, NewGen in India and Objective in Australia for example), and though we cannot hope to capture everyone (nor would I try) it is in this last group of Geographic and Vertical Industry specific that the biggest gaps will inevitably be (and of course it is complicated as even regional players often play outside their regions!).

In other words there is really no rocket science to this – and I am always open to comments and suggestions as to how to improve things. The key thing though with the ECM Report (and the other CMS Watch Reports) is that they are written solely with the needs and requirements of potential technology buyers in mind, their/your needs are the beginning and end of the inclusion and product evaluation criteria. And its also worth stating loudly that CMS Watch does not receive any revenue at all from software vendors, no consulting to them, not even flights and hotels for an event!

And if anyone at Gartner wants to slug me one, then I can’t really blame them – but that magic quadrant was really begging for it too you know ;-)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The downfall of CA's Kumar

A short post on this just to get it out of my system.
Sanjay Kumar has been found guilty of fraud, the former CEO of CA (formerly Computer Associates) cooked the books in a big way and is now facing substantial time in prison.

My personal involvement (if one can call it that) was that I had the temerity to write a largely supportive report of CA's technology and re brand in 2006, with a rider that with (then current) DOJ investigations one should be slightly cautious. I had been (naively) surprised that other analyst firms had said little or nothing about the mounting and clearly very serious legal situations that CA were finding themselves in. Well I found out why that was, as CA launched a vicious and very personal attack on me once the report was published. It was a low point for me, even though I have been around a long time this was particularly nasty and many were intimidated by it.

Nobody came out particularly well from the encounter - and so there is some satisfaction in seeing the man be found guilty, but I hope CA moves on from this tawdry situation. But I still have doubts, the corporate environment under Kumar's predecessor Charles Wang was poisonous, and it should have improved under Kumar (and in all fairness he did some excellent work in re-positioning and re branding) but it remained poisonous and became criminal. That those who worked so diligently to silence critics of the criminal activity are still in Executive positions there certainly gives plenty of room for doubt to remain.

As buyers, users and those tasked with implementing technology know - the software and hardware is important, but so is trust in your supplier....

Trashing Wiki vendors..

On Wednesday this week I was Simon the cruel English judge at the Gilbane Event Wiki Idol.

For a more sober and considered blog on this with fulsome links check out the one I have posted today on CMS Watch...

I was not keen on doing this in the first place, fearing potential stereotyping, and though I am certainly opinionated I am at the end of the day a bit of a softie and really hate to hurt any ones feelings. Hence before the competition began I went up the assembling contestants and apologized in advance for what I was going to do to them. By the way at this point I realized that none of the vendors knew what they were getting themselves into - suffice to say that each vendor made a bit of a mess of their presentation and were verbally slaughtered by the judges. (far far worse than the other CM Idols event I had seen)

Did anything good come of this blood fest - well yes, ironically a lot of good. The next day I know that at least 3 of the vendors had notably increased traffic to their booths. But maybe more importantly we all got to see:

  • The Emperor New Clothes
  • Something cool looking to find its place in the World

Wiki's are I think smoke and mirrors, KM software and WCM software pretending that they are something new and hip. With little understanding in some cases of what real businesses are looking for, and an almost naive innocence that people will buy new 'stuff'. I have been around long enough to know there is a buyer somewhere for anything, but to achieve real market mass - and to cross the chasm, you need to do something that add's value. It was hard to see what value this software would bring. Also interesting was to see how many of these products are targeted at Techie's, and if one takes the Open Source model then one can see how there might be a willing niche audience for this kind of software. Beyond that I think the appeal is very limited.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Reassessing “efficiency”

I guess my major thrust in ECM consulting engagements has been around separating valued information from noise. Maybe we need to do that in a broader fashion also?

I think the next generation of information professionals should be getting back to the basics of true efficiency:

• Identifying repeatable processes and functions that are at the core of our business

• Reducing exceptions as much as possible

• Provide the right platforms to enable high quality work

And taking the kind of tangential leap that only a blog entry can allow – I think we need to be considering BPR 2.0 – smarter re-engineering, drawing from the best of the past and hopefully learning from the sheer disasters that did occur during the last BPR revolution, mistakes made from assumptions such as:

• Overestimating the value and capability of technology solutions

• Underestimating the value of human intelligence and process knowledge

• Recognizing the limitations of the consultants in understanding how businesses tick

One thing that will be of value in this next generation I think will be an honest reassessment of the role and purpose of so called ‘productivity tools’. Has giving everyone Microsoft Office a Cell Phone and a Blackberry really made things more efficient?

At the same time we need to teach people how to communicate effectively – potentially by mirroring successful communicators (thoughtful, deliberate and happy to ignore trivia).

We probably need to get away from the anally retentive IT mentality we currently embrace of storing everything, and bring some discipline back into information management. For unless we do so we will continue to stumble from one expensive and under-performing deployment to the next. For let’s be honest, many of today’s expensive new technology deployments are being undertaken to fix the mistakes of the last expensive technology deployment.

Nitin Sawhney’s ‘Street Guru’ said…”I think there is going to be a backlash against technology…….”. If not a true backlash, there is cynicism at many levels, and it’s got to be time for a rethink. The industry is obsessed with Web 2.0, and to many it is all about Mashups and Ajax, but I think if it is to have any real impact, it needs to be about much more fundamental issues.

Slaves to technology

Those who know me well know that I take my music (particularly Electronica/Dance) very seriously. My iPod is playing a bunch of recent downloads and top amongst them are some albums by Nitin Sawhney. One of the tracks (on his Prophesy Album) that I have listened to many times is 'Street Guru'. It’s a track that samples heavily from a conversation with a US city Cab Driver, the driver muses on the fact that people have become slaves to time and technology…

Development has pushed us away from other people

A lot of times people are mad because they want immediate access, immediate information, but sometimes you just gotta wait and let things happen

People get in the cab & I say it will take 5 minutes and they say “it should only take 3”….nobody is going to put on your tombstone, I got here in 5 minutes instead of 7..

Technology has made us slaves to time

These are thoughts that clearly resonate with me, possibly from a different context and perspective but resonating nonetheless. The world of document/content management and workflow (you knew there was a connection coming up!) was constructed solely for the purpose of automating manual tasks and delivering and moving information at ever faster speeds. All with the intension of increasing efficiency, but efficiency isn’t simply about doing things faster…

ECM technologies are (I believe) essential in any enterprise to save them from drowning in a sea of irrelevant information. The mass of information facing people in their working life is real, and has reached a critical status – yet as I often pointed out, most of the information (documents) are irrelevant and wasteful.

Indeed it sometimes seems as if we spend our lives responding to irrelevancies, we keep busy, but don’t achieve all that much.

At the time of originally writing this post (long hand in my B&W A4 hardback notebook) I am sitting next to a man on an aeroplane who keeps sneakily responding to emails on his Blackberry mid flight to Seattle. I myself at Chicago airport earlier this morning opened my email account to see 10 emails relating to the same topic, a simple phone call to one person would have done the trick, but instead I have 10 emails with 5 people copied on each. And here is the rub, everyone wants immediate action, yet they don’t tend to see the major contradiction between these 50 emails (which would go onto to spurn yet others) that had brought closure to nothing.

Everyone wants immediate responses, to issues that may in their totality be important but are not particularly urgent. In our haste to respond, we fire off ill thought out responses that trigger yet more interactions…..”technology has made us slaves to time

CMF2006 Aarhus Denmark

I am writing this on the flight back to Boston after having spending a couple of very enjoyable days in Aarhus, Denmark at the CMF2006 event. This was (unusually for me) a positive experience both personally and professionally. I was there ostensibly to provide the closing keynote, but I also enjoyed the company of industry peers such as Lisa Welchman, Erik Hartman, Stephen Arnold, my new boss to be Tony Byrne, my good friends at Wipro Apoorv Dhurga and Kashyap Kompella, Pranshu Jain and of course the event host Janus Boye. A veritable smorgasbord of web content expertise, all people whom even a brief and humorous chat over a cup of tea, leave you better informed, and I suspect a better person ☺

My speech was quite different from that at ECM Plaza (I think) a few weeks ago, in that I focused on understanding (or trying to understand) the content management market. I used my Cow metaphor again, though being in Denmark she should really have transformed into a pig, for I discovered that 100,000 pigs a week are slaughtered at the nearby slaughterhouse, a fact given me by a friendly taxi driver (the kind of information I don’t need) who also gave me an overview of the much loved Royal Family (though I suspected from his comments that the French born Crown Prince could a little more to endear himself), the joys of hunting, his 10 days driving a truck in England (including accidentally driving on the wrong side of the road and going under a bridge that was not tall enough for the truck (again information I didn’t need). Amazingly I booked the same driver to take me back this morning!

I don’t think I have anything major to share, other than to encourage you to attend this event next year if Web Content Management and it’s variants are important to you. I suspect this is the premier global event of its kind – and provides a very open and hospitable atmosphere for discussion, education and business. In addition it gets you to a part of the world you probably wouldn’t normally see, along with superb hospitality – and good food!

By the way if you do get to Aarhus next year be sure to see the Cathedral (Domkirke) and if you get the chance eat dinner at Globen Flakket (for the food and hyggelig), enjoy breakfasts of incredible Danish bread, eggs (runny and yummy) and cheese at Villa Provence, if Lisa Welchman offers you medical advice ignore it, and thoroughly enjoy CMF2007.

On a separate note…as a reminder, as of next week I shall be officially working for CMS Watch and industry specific blogs will be posted there, I shall use this blog for broader discussions – and intend also to pick up the topic of outsourcing much more, something I have learned a little about in my time at Wipro!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Farewell Wipro - Hello CMS Watch

Well today it became official, I am joining CMS Watch, and as of the middle of next week I will be starting work on a new ECM Report....

Press Release

I will miss Wipro very much - it is a truly wonderful and quirky firm that has been amazingly supportive to me. I hope I have added value in my time here....and also hope to continue working together somehow in the future.

My email will change to

As for this blog, it will remain active and I will continue to use it for my occasional rants and meandering thoughts - but will also now blog on ECM specific topics on CMS Watch.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Oracle acquires Stellent - On balance a good move

Oracle finally acquires an ECM company, after initially passing on Documentum & FileNet (now owned by EMC and IBM respectively). It’s a move that appears to make sense for a number of reasons not least because:

• Oracle is very keen to make headway in the ECM market and their own attempts to date have fallen short.

• Stellent is a well respected players and gives Oracle instant kudos, expertise and visibility in the ECM sector

• At a technical level Stellent is probably the easiest (in relative terms) of the remaining ECM systems in the market to integrate into the Oracle stack

But even if at this high level Stellent appears to be a good fit for Oracle, there is no guarantee that this will be plain sailing.

• For starters even though Stellent may be a key ECM player, they are not very well represented in large enterprises

• They are considerably smaller by any measure than Filenet (IBM), Documentum (EMC) or OpenText

• The corporate culture at Stellent embodies Minnesota nice, mid Western congeniality – Oracle can be brutal

• Stellent is big enough to make integration into Oracle a challenge, but not big enough to be seen by many key execs within Oracle as strategic

On balance Stellent seems like a good move for Oracle but it is not without its challenges. I suspect the Oracle Content DB will largely remain (selling multi thousand seat low price deployments) but the Stellent product set once integrated and rationalized will provide the heavier duty components to qualify Oracle in many competitive situations, and plug specialist gaps.

Though it will not close the gap between Oracle and EMC, IBM and OpenText it does steal a march on arch rivals SAP who’s attempts at ECM related activities have been tepid at best.

For buyers and users of Stellent technologies there should be little to worry about in the short to mid term, but new buyers will need to push Oracle sales staff for clear information on forward direction.

At this rate 2007 is gearing up to be the year of ECM – for with these acquisitions digested there will be a lot of new money for marketing and R&D being pumped in by the majors. Clearly there is now growing pressure for SAP to respond, and though most of the money is on them acquiring OpenText (read iXOS), the plethora of acquired technologies that make up OpenText may present a pandora’s box that historically conservative SAP may not be willing to open.

For maturity in ECM we are almost at 1.0 with the major players owning the vast majority of the market – what they will do, and they will do many things, is still open to debate but ECM 2.0 will emerge.

For a couple of other really good persepctives on this check out:

Ralph Gammon
Tony Byrne

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The last 10 years in ECM

I have been tidying up my home office in prep for an extended home working schedule, and came across two publications that took me back in time. Ovum Evaluates: Document Management (published in 1998) and the AIIM Expo 1998 Guide. The Ovum report in particular brought back many memories as I wrote the follow up to this "Ovum Evaluates: Integrated Document Management".

(ECM was for a brief while IDM, then it became KM, then back to EDM, then ECM...........)

It is quite amazing to see the changes that our industry have been through in the past 10 years, how many faces and names are long since gone, and what has remained fundamental and unchanged throughout that time.

The list of those once prominent but now gone include:

  • Eastman
  • Feith
  • Keymage
  • Lava Systems
  • SiDoc
  • Teamware
  • NetRight
  • Texcel
Others are also gone, but still around under different guises:

  • Lotus (now IBM)
  • PC Docs (now OpenText previously Hummingbird)
  • FileNet (now IBM)
  • Documentum (now EMC)
  • Altris (now Spescom)
Interestingly the one unchanged player that I came across was EVER - a firm who only this year got themselves added to the Gartner Magic Quadrant. A testament to just how US centric we can all be at times. Indeed European firms often have great difficulty getting proper analyst and press coverage, this was certainly the case for SER and iXOS in their heyday, and remains the case for EVER and Nuxeo I think.

A brief look through the fundamental chapters of the Ovum report, and the AIIM guide to the working sessions at the Expo reveals that little in essence (other than the players names) has changed. The same problems that businesses face persist, and in the main the pretty much the same solutions are being offered.

We have moved from client server to web ubiquity, we talk about Web Services and 2.0 - but at the end of the day we still scan, capture, ingest, manage, deliver, publish and archive. In other words the code has become a little slicker as have the UI's, but at core its still document management and workflow :-)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

No news is good news....

Apologies for the dearth of postings recently, but I have a lot going on at present - good stuff in the main (though I did strain my back travelling to Europe week or two back)...

Was contemplating writing something about the acquistion of Ovum by Datamonitor, but despite the fact that I will make a little money out of it, its just too sad to talk about.

Currently working on my keynote for the CMF2006 in Aarhus and a presentation on ECM/KM in the Oil & Gas sector - and amazingly finding the former harder than the latter! Defining and explaining the Content Management market is hard, and getting harder by the day I think....

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that WCM & ECM are convenient myths created by vendors and analysts that have little relevance in the real world....these buckets made much more sense to me when I was an analyst, than they do now as a consultant/strategist....worrying isn't it?

Will post again soon - hopefully with the Keynote done and ready to share.....

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Strategy for ECM ?

I was very kindly invited by ECM guru Erik Hartman to give the closing speech at his ECM Plaza conference at the World Trade Center in Rotterdam this past week. My brief from Erik was to close the day out with something of a summary, highlighting some key points and to leave people with something provocative to think about. In short other than a bunch of stock slides on my laptop I had prepared nothing in advance. My plan (I have done this quite successfuly before) was to sit in on the key sessions, write my notes up - pull some obligitory slides together and go for it.

Anybody spot the error above? The conference was in Rotterdam, which is in the The Netherlands and the sessions were of course......mainly in Dutch...My grasp of the Dutch language goes no further than the names of various cheeses (Gouda etc), and an uncanny ability to mimic the sound of the dutch speaking when I have drunk too much wine. Neither of these came in particularly handy.
So what I actually delivered was more based on individual conversations throughout the day, and a couple of english language sessions....maybe next time I should have a plan B?

For me the highlight of the event (though there were other good sessions including Theresa stepping in for Tony at CMSWatch on the topic of RM & ECM) was meeting James Robertson the writer and listening to his lunchtime keynote session. James is a really nice guy who really knows his stuff - yet I disagreed with almost everything he said!
Disagreed is maybe the wrong word, maybe I just have a completely different perspective on things - for everything he said made perfect sense, it's just that if talking about the same topics I would be on a totally different track from James. This intrigues me, and I will certainly be making the effort to read more of James work. For there is a world of difference between somebody that I think is simply wrong - (vendors at conferences sometimes have that effect on me - I know they are wrong, they know they are wrong - but if they tell the truth unadulterated then they won't sell their product).
Take the issue of the need for Strategy in an ECM deployment (James by the way spend much of his time ridiculing strategy). Yet strategy was top of my mind for my team and I had worked on a webinar for AIIM that was broadcast live this past week on the topic of a Total Document Strategy - how to prioritize and structure what can be a bewildering array of demands and requirements within an enterprise for ECM related services. And it is at the word Enterprise that I think the differences first emerge between James and my persepctives...
For nearly 20 years now I have been working in one form or another in document, record and web management - as consultant or analyst etc. In that time virtually all my work has been with Enterprises - and lets remember here that enterprises are large companies (that is what the word means) I cannot remember the last firm I advised who employed less than 10,000 employees for example. In the world of Enterprises, the failure rate of ECM is shockingly high. For all the wonderful case studies on the websites of the leading ECM players, a closer look at those firms almost always reveals a different picture. Good intentions, a large budget, purchase of lots of licenses, then after a few small deployments things tail off into failure and disinterest. Frankly there are very very few exceptions - and there are many hundreds of thousands of licenses for ECM systems out there that still sit in their shrink wrap years after being bought. The reasons why these grand ECM plans invariably fail is I believe due to a lack of strategic planning, and in parrallel a lack of skills available to do the work.

It is so easy to find a department that could benefit from document, email, digital asset, records, web or whatever management system - and to get that running and show an apparant success is also easy. To sustain that success though is very difficult, and to roll that short term success out across the enterprise almost never happens.

So I am coming to the conclusion that we really need to take a different approach to ECM that is based on a solid and holistic strategy. That strategy needs to recognise that very little content is as specfic to one group or organization than we like to think, that information flows, has lifecycles - and probably the most important thing to consider at the start is, not all content is equal.
In fact I am convinced that well over 80% of the content that you are currently paying major overhead costs to sit on your fileservers, repositories and local drives is redundant. If purged and destroyed tommorow would do nothing other than free up valuable resources and allow to you to identifiy and focus on the content that is of value.

In short identifying your overall goal, prioritizing your processes and needs, and purging your system of junk (and ensuring its remains free of junk through effective lifecycle management of content) is the place to start. The place not to start is with the technology - there is no more of a dread situation than when a client asks us to help them with a new project and mention they already have a shortlist, or worse still a product selected...

This holistic ECM strategy though needs to extend also to the technical layers - repository layers (all content sitting in repositories should be interoperable) - a business process layer - a web services layer etc. This gives us a foundation to plug and play best of breed or even home grown specific tools in where required. It also gives us a layer of uniformity that is critical in managing information - for the reality is that simply purging redundancy out, managing vital information only in a consistent and secure fashion is all the ECM most companies need. 9/10ths of the functionality that firms buy in an ECM 'solution' is never used. That said, in every large organization there will be a small group or two that may have a need for some of those specialist features, but for most users, most of the time - no.

Start strategically, act tactically - prioritize your tasks - think about ECM as a prime element in any SOA or Enteprise Architecture situation - as a layer (or set of layers) that all content most utilize and conform to.

As a blog entry this is becoming too long - and as usual too rambling for comfort :-)

(For more details on what I am talking about and how we at Wipro approach this situation I would counsel anyone interested to listen to the Webinar on TDS that is still available free from the AIIM website and very ably presented by my colleague David Smigiel a fellow ECM veteran, and one with a satisfying MidWest drawl, so much more airwave friendly than my nasally English pitch).

So I shall leave it at that for now, but will when I have thought it through some more also pick up on some thoughts I was left with after chatting with John Newton at the event (founder of Alfresco) and listening to his presentation - particularly his views on Web 2.0.

For those interested, the closing keynote was fine, I think I did most of what Erik was hoping for, though not everyone thought my slide featuring the dutch ECM cow was particularly funny........oooops. Shame as I really liked it and will likely use it again....

Next event I am speaking at will be in Aarhus in Denmark next month at the cmf2006 - a much more Web centric event so with different priorities and areas of focus....anyone who is planning to be there and reads this blog, please do come up and say hello, I am far less intimidating than I look :-) By the way anyone know if the Danes have cows? I have this slide I might use..

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I saw a notice from AIIM yesterday that approaches it had made to ARMA had been rebuffed. Its difficult to know if its news or not - and if its important or not. For frankly no real waves will occur or industry changes emerge as a result, but it does give pause for thought.

On the surface (and probably a bit below) there is a lot of sense in a hook up - even if its only something a little more formal and co-ordinated than the current gap. But the industry is changing fast and neither organization has all the story - and there are worrying overlaps at times between the two. Even in terms of basic positioning there is confusion (I have never been comfortable with ARMA's claim to representing Information Managers for example).

ARMA is clearly member led - and a visit to one of their conferences makes this clear, AIIM (whether for the good or bad) is much more driven by Vendors. Neither fully understands the others world, and worryingly technology buyers and decision makers don't make much of a a result we are seeing lots of innapropriate solutions being deployed, and the failure rate for ECM and Document related systems remains very high.

Two good organizations, with very different consituencies but with a need to agree common principals, scope and mission. But from the message out yesterday, a long way of achieving any of these....

DBA's and Content

Data Architects and Admins are moving into Content. Not a big suprise particularly in larger enterprises - with the big DB vendors moving into the space, and the barriers between structured and unstructured data slowly starting to fall, it makes perfect sense.

But for a DBA to pick up Information Architecture skills to equip them in managing unstructured data, its not so easy. There is a dearth of sources - and clearly a need for somebody (individual author - or vendor supported) to start to help bridge this gap. What limited resources there are, are good ones and with thanks to the authors I have listed them here:

Most interested to hear of others!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Consulting 101

Well I have been doing this for long enough that you would think I would know better, but of course I don't.....recently I have had a kick in the pants due to ignoring the basics of consulting, so here is some motherhood and apple pie advice from a chastened Alan..

  • Be clear from the get go (in writing!) who the client contact is, and if there is at anytime somebody (on the client side) suggesting that they instead 'own' the project, stop in your tracks and get written clarification...
  • If the client changes the scope midway - document in writing that this has changed (whether this involves extra costs or not)..
  • If the deliverable that you agreed in the Statement of Work is no longer desired or required, ensure you have in writing a change notice, if not the original deliverable stands...
  • Be very careful when you give 'free consulting' - it is seldom appreciated in good spirit, and quickly becomes expected..
  • Always remember that your job is to call the baby ugly if that's what it is, but even if you have been brought in to do just that......don't expect a pat on the back when you do the deed..
  • Discovery sessions and workshops are always confidential - whether stated or not. Otherwise there is little incentive for anyone to give you the hard facts.
  • Never ever share your notes from discovery sessions with your client...
Need I go on? Consulting isn't for everyone, but there are methodologies and there are commonly followed practices that help. I personally love the discovery, analysis (and at times the confrontation and education) that consulting involves.....but when you don't follow your own advice, its painful - and the goodwill you have invested in personally and professionaly can go in an instant!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Some excellent discussions on BPM/ECM on this Blog!

Some great blog discussions here - links below (really!):



Open Source ECM

Phil Ayers, Apoorv, John Newton, George P, James McGovern, Walt, Kevin, Deshetc etc please accept my apologies, since putting in a monitoring function for comments its all gone pear shaped.....I didn't know you guys had been posting comments (I didn't see them) so just thought I was unloved :-)
I have tried to ensure all your comments are now published, along with my response if there was one........

There are a bunch of others worth reading around India and Rendering (not rendition to India!)
all frankly much more interesting than my original blog entries :-)

Monday, September 18, 2006

The 'E' in ECM & ERM does not stand for 'Everything'

The reason we instigate records management or enterprise content management projects is to take control of business critical information. So understandbly efforts are focused on identifying that information and building processes/lifecycles/rules around it so that we will be able to better manage and extract value in future....right?

Well only partially right...and I suspect that one of the reasons that RM/ERM projects fail so often is in part because of this approach. Think about it this way.....when you garden, you plant flowers/vegetables/trees whatever and tend them. Yet 80% plus of the work in a garden is to remove and control the plants, that you do not want - weeding them out, cutting them back whatever. Only a small percentage of time and effort is spent directly on the plants you do want.

Its the same with documents - most of your time, money and effort will be spent on ensuring that you remove unwanted content, and continue to build barriers to it coming back and growing and taking hold again.

When you install a new system for managing content, do you simply migrate everything you have to it? Surely not, for logically a great deal of work should have been undertaken to ensure that only pure, accurate and relevant business content moves. Otherwise you are in some senses almost literally sowing the seeds of a project disaster.

In practical terms it is worth considering that in a successful project fully half or more of your costs will go on business analysis/consulting activities that are not technology related. Activities such as identifying business critical info from the rest, purging stale and outdated content, defining and agreeing business rules and processes etc.

As I like to say - you cannot layer order on top of chaos (sorry but it just won't work) - and when it comes to the accuracy of the information we use in our business task, there should never be any ambiguity as to whether this is the right, most up to date and correct data available.

The E stands for Enterprise - and Enterprise Content is the stuff the Enterprise needs to do its business, and if definately does not need mountains of duplication, errors, junk and irrelevance.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

S1000D - approach with caution!

S1000D is apparantly going to rock the technical publications world, and according to one commentator "has gained noteriety in the USA.." not sure if this is what the commentator meant, or he was simply using a big word that he didn't fully understand.

But frankly it is gaining some noteriety in my home office - as I have had it up to here with S1000D, and what it does or does not mean.

I am assuming those of you who have no idea what S1000D is, will have left the page by now, but in the interests of courtesy let me quickly explain:

S1000D is a European technical specification that has been in development since the mid 80's. It is common in Europe particularly in Military and Aerospace, and is just now starting to catch on here in the US. Its a well meaning specification, that tries to give guidance as to how to modularize technical publications. How to construct and create large technical manuals, into small components that can be re-used. That at least is what it tries to do, but from my limited exposure is also capable of causing more trouble than its worth.

Take for example the concept around these data modules, that they should be 'self contained'. Its the sort of thing that appears on the surface to be logical and obvious, but fall's apart when viewed from different perspectives in the process. You can technically manage data in a database down to a period or colon, but can you manage the business processes that are by default attached to all these items? Oh yes, particularly in engineering circles, everything needs to have a process attached to it and to go through a proper comment and approval cycle.

S1000D appears to be written by well meaning data architects, who have never spent time to consider the differences between structured data and unstructured content. In supporting software products that are spinning off in support of S1000D is emerges as configuration management (ala Merant or Serena) for content. Yet the worlds of engineering and manufacturing should have learned painful lessons already about the limitations of PLM in process or detailed compound documents in Pharma for example - the lesson being it only works up to a point.

I am the first to declare that it's all data at the end of the day - but text needs to be in context, just as a diagram on an engineering drawing is meaningless if not seen in context with supporting data sheets.

Its probably too big a topic to rant about on a blog - but like many specifications before it, S1000D needs to be seen in context (just like the content it addresses) - it will allow you to fragment content items to a tiny degree, however it does not suggest that you actually do that. Simply, it suggests that content re-use is a good thing (agreed) modularization of content (to reduce duplication and redundancy) is a good thing (agreed). It also provides a structure for you to manage that resuable modular situation.

But to what level you section content is a decision you (or your industry) needs to make, its a decision that will take into account all the business processes and dynamics surrounding compliancy, authoring processes, usage models etc first.

S1000D in its drive to apply consistent metadata to content, to push for greater efficiency and the ability to share is a good thing. But like many good things, it needs to be taken in moderation.

As this is a bit of an obscure area I though the following might be of some use. A list of software firms with products supporting S1000D (just a list not a recommendation!)


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Alfresco announces records Management.

Alfresco today announced the release of an open source records management module. Link

For sure Ian Howells and John Newton are starting to shake up the staid world of ECM, and frankly this is a lot more interesting than reflecting on who might buy who and when.

Records Management is close to my heart, I am a big believer that it is the basic housekeeping tasks of RM (and DM) that bring order to the chaos. Too many firms (as I often reflect) are fixated on finding quick fixes to massively complex issues, often in the guise of Search tools that promise the earth, when frankly its the basics that need to be addressed, like it or not.

(Though not strictly OpenSource, it should be noted that 80-20 Software in Australia already offer an excellent Compliancy solution as a free download for Sharepoint environments).

Alfresco as I say are shaking the ECM world up, it is a world that takes a lot to be shaken, last time it was the emergence of Interwoven and Vignette (along with Broadvision, ATG and ePrise etc) in the height of the boom as potential threats that last shook the industry up. And to coin a corny phrase, the ECM majors are currently being shaken, but not fully stirred yet by the waves that Alfresco are starting to make.

But all in all, Alfresco plus the low seat cost Oracle Content DB are the two biggest dynamics for us watchers to watch. Both of these challenge the status quo, and will elicit a response at some point. But its still early days, and we are yet to see what that response will be. Though the most likely in time is a drop in regular license prices, and maybe even changed business models to stay competitive, and hopefully much more open approaches to ECM.

What Alfresco needs most is a worthy direct competitor - and though Nuxeo is one to note in Europe - another needs to emerge to validate this approach. At the same time as Nuxeo and Alfresco posit OS versions of traditional approaches, differing methods to dealing with ECM needs are starting to evolve. Some (like Oracle and Microsoft) looking at the database, others such as Instasecure in India are proposing new ideas at the document level. All of these new approaches still need full validation, but as I have written many times, the goal of ECM is not to deploy a single product set across an entire enterprise, it is to bring order and efficiency to the management of information across an enterprise.

All of these approaches are probably valid, none is a silver bullet in its own right, but more creative solutions to the managing documents will I emerge, in fact I think they already are emerging.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The futility of online security....

I got ripped off this week on eBay - as did a bunch of others (many of whom probably don't realise it yet). In short I collect fine art photography, and eBay can be a good source. What appeared to be proofs or press prints signed (autographed really) by Helmut Newton (not a photographer or style of photography I would normally collect ironically) were on sale at a low, but not ridiculously low rate. I bought six - to find out that they were cheap and nasty computer forgeries. I am down about $300 - and the scamsters are probably up many thousands by now...

This painful and annoying performance led me to reflect just how easy it is to commit crimes on the web. It's interesting (I think) to reflect that such a scam as this was near impossible to pull off (on this scale) prior to the Internet. For one thing the forgeries would have had to be a heck of a lot better than these. The scamsters used psychology, and imaging technology to make crude forgeries appear very convincing on the screen. They also used simple psychology and the skills of old fashioned con-artists to pull in the buyers. Most security issues relating to technology fall into this category, and yet we spend little time doing anything about this.

Whilst at Ovum I wrote a commentary on the futility of much computer and internet security technology. Its not that you shouldn't use security features, simply that in the main crimes are committed using good old fashioned con's and techniques. The 'crackers' that the IT community loves to obsese about, generally do little damage other than to expose security flaws in commercial software, that only other crackers and hackers would have the wherewithall to do anything with. Its a circular mini industry of software developers doing their level best to develop secure software, 'crackers' exposing their mistakes, developers developing patches, and security focused technology vendors making a buck on the side.

likewise the theft of credit card information generally falls into three categories:

  • It is copied/stolen from a secure location by somebody with secure access to it
  • It is inadvertantly lost by somebody leaving a laptop containing the data somewhere it should not be (like a bar for example)
  • It is a genuine transaction for a potentially embarrasing transaction (online porn for example). This small transaction provides details used for larger illegitimate transactions - though typically still small enough to ensure the owner of the credit card will not put up too much of a fuss (blackmail or sorts)

All of these rely on people screwing up, and technology can do little to prevent these things happening.

In fact technology at times, far from making life more secure, actually provides a highly efficient platform for crime. With ever more data stored little control or regulation, that platform can only become more efficient. In particular I think the likelihood of Internet blackmail will become more prevalent. The incidences of small credit card fraud above is a worrying new development in this direction. There will always be a thin line between freedom and security, but I for one think that there is too much data held on too many people, by organizations who have little moral or in some cases legal rights to have it. We freak out when credit card information is lost to criminals, but I really do think worse is looming.

What my eBay experience taught me is that if something looks too good to be true, it probably isn't true. And also to trust our instincts more - for you see what really caught me out here was that I trusted eBay (not the seller), despite nagging doubts that in a one to one situation would have led me to walk. Security is at the end of the day our business, its our job to ensure that we are secure - and it always has and sadly always will be the criminals job to catch you unawares. Likewise holding vast amounts of personal data on members of the public is huge responsibility, with potentially cataclysmic fallout if it ends up in the wrong hands. Yet anyone in this industry knows that few firms in possession of these vast data mountains truly appreaciate the burden of responsibility on their shoulders.

There appears nothing much that eBay can about my scam - I have been in touch with the Helmut Newton Foundation and am currently helping them track down these miscreants, but likely they will get away with it. As many more will in future....

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Why ECM is a must have in Enterprises

Just a couple of years ago it was really hard to find any enterprises who took the issues around ECM & ERM seriously. Sure many had implemented something at a departmental level, but looking at content strategically across the enterprise was on nobody's agenda.
Well it may just be that Wipro's clients are ahead of the curve, but everyone I meet with now has this very high on the agenda. They may not always be talking ECM - often it is unstructured data in the context of a broader enteprise architecture strategy, but it is there and it is urgent.
And the biggest issue facing them appears to be, knowing where to start.
In some firms it's forms and reports, in others its the Web, in yet others it's the issue of bringing order to the chaos of local and shared drives. But why is it now urgent and just a few years back not of interest at all?

Well I think at least part of the reason is that particularly in large firms in the US we have moved very swiftly away from tenure and 'tribal knowledge', the expectation that people will stay a long while, and always be there as a resource. To one of downsizing, outsourcing, partnering and high turnover.

In this new world of ever changing employee dynamics - relying on somebody to be there who understands the process and carries the important information in their head (or the location of the important information!) is no longer feasible.

In some respects its KM all over again - but this time its more pragmatic. At core what most firms want to do is simply know what information they have and make it available (more difficult than it sounds), on top of that they are looking at enforcing and standarizing working processes.

To a large degee its the BPR movement of the late 80's thro 90's all over again, except that just yet nobody is bringing in armies of business anlaysts to re-engineer their business processes. But the need and urgency is there - and I do wonder (things always go much slower than we expect) if in a year or two's time we will be BPR'ing (probably under a different acronym) all over again? Life is a little like a carousel at times - you pick your horse to ride, but we all go round the same circuit..

In the meantime - strategy for ECM is essential, for without a strategy and thorough assessment either nothing gets done as nobody knows how or where to start, or you find yourself at the mercy of major ECM vendors. Some of whom have sold massive ELA's (enterprise licence agreements) to clients who have little clue how to use or deploy this stuff. Its a potentially ugly situation that will come to a head.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

BI Vendors buy into ECM?

The new (ex Butler Group) analyst at Ovum, Mike Davis is co-name checked alongside me in a piece on the ECM consolitation conundrum in IT Week today written by Martin Veitch.

Mike posits the thought that BI (Business Intelligence) vendors will look to ECM vendors as potential acquistion targets. It is not something I had considered happening before, and frankly I am not convinced that this will happen. If it does then the BI vendors could be in very deep water quickly. One only needs to look at Hummingbird for lessons on why this is not a good idea.

Hummingbird acquired a firm called Andyne some years back - at the time a leading BI and Analytics vendor, they then acquired PC Docs (who owned the then leading search vendor Fulcrum) - and now in 2006 after failing to set the world alight they are being acquired by arch rivals OpenText.

Their vision was good, but they found out just how difficult and different the worlds of structured and unstructured data are. Not only technically is this a tough nut to crack, but to date it has proven to be a very difficult commercial nut to crack also.

Some progress in bridging the gaps has been made - particularly at the database level, but even here though we may manage everything in a DB2 Database, an Oracle 10g or whatever, the instances and structures are in reality very separate. If anyone is to crack the structured/unstructured divide then it is likely to be either Microsoft, Google, Oracle or IBM - outside of these powerhouses I suspect the roadside will be littered with casualities.

Search & BI have more in common, but then again the only thing really in common between a BI tool and a Search tool is that they are both designed to deliver answers to questions. But in the case of a search tool, it is tasked with finding a specific piece of information (content) , in the case of a BI tool it is tasked with undertaking table analysis and calculations to deliver a report of some description to the user.

There is no doubt that in some basic cases the two end up doing similar jobs, and at a basic level the lines between both will, and already are starting to blur, but this line blurring is most likely to be successful through heavy development initiatives rather than cludging two tools together somehow.

It should also be noted that the cost of acquiring an OpenText or Stellent or Intewoven to a company the size of Cognos or Business Objects could also be crippling, with zero room for adjustment should something go wrong.

Who knows what will happen, if the past is anything to go by, nothing much for a while - propably one or two more acquistions in the next year. More importantly for the industry I hope for some innovation in the market. I would particularly love to see some new applications built off the Oracle and Microsoft stacks (as OpenText is threatening to do), more vertical solutions maybe (I can't just keep namechecking Cimage and Spescom there have to be others!) - more entries from 'intelligent content' players etc...But not a BI vendor buying and ECM player, not just yet, as I think that could all end up in an ugly place....

Thursday, August 10, 2006

FileNet to be acquired - first thoughts

First one then the other - IBM moves to acquire FileNet. Probably the most expected acquisition in software history! Yet one that raises questions.

At the end of the day for major imaging projects there were two clear leaders IBM & FileNet, with EMC making up an admirable but clear cut third place (Hyland coming up fourth in the Mid Market). Now there will be only be one clear choice, and though IBM says they will run both product lines, there is simply no business logic in doing that over the long term. One set of products by definition will have to run its lifecycle and be replaced by the other.

IBM have always been the elephant in the room for ECM, as for many years they have held first or second place to FileNet in terms of leadership postion (by revenue) and only in the last year has EMC moved ahead of them. Combined IBM & FileNet will easily be the dominant player, and without doubt IBM will do well from the deal.

  • They close out their number one competitor
  • They gain some nice pieces of technology to compliment or replace their own
  • They gain a substantial and lucrative client base

Lee Roberts CEO (and ex IBM'er) will also do very well - but I am not sure I would be too happy if I were a FileNet customer, or for that matter a member of FileNet's staff.

Its worth remembering that most people who bought FileNet's products also had IBM on the short list, so for the customer base it must seem like they chose FileNet over IBM - but now they are given the vendor they rejected....Of course nothing is concluded till the shareholders vote, and though that is expected to go through positively - there will certainly be some interesting questions to be asked of the FileNet board, top of the list being.

  • Were there other approaches (certainly the industry was rife with rumours that HP, CA and Oracle had all shown interest)

The other question for me is what does this mean for the industry as a whole? The ECM Suite vendors are document centric vendors (Web Content Management remains a parralel but separate market) and now we have two very large players dominating (IBM & EMC) - behind that we have OpenText, and behind them Interwoven, Stellent etc. We also have a lot of infrastructure vendors looking to take a slice of the growing pie (HP - Oracle - CA - Microsoft etc) and I guess the question is who will be next? And who can challenge these two - the market is big enough and has more than enough growth in it to encourage others to enter - most likely it will be an infrastructure player via the acquisition path, but which one is the question.

On a personal level I am really quite sad - though it was inevitable and the pending acquisition was of open discussion in the industry - FileNet represented the heart of document management. They literally invented Workflow - they were the first Imaging company (and pretty much invented that sector) - and they dominated for years. Though in the last couple of years they had become a little more aggresive and edgy (with the recruitement of new Sales management), it was always to the outsider a great technology company, friendly, and wonderfully located in Costa Mesa with directors who liked to surf before work in the morning. The total opposite to the equally likeable but much more 'A Type' Documentum in Northern Cali. I certainly wish all the wonderful people at FileNet well - and hope that they are well looked after by IBM (as they will certainly be in demand elsewhere if not!)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Farewell Hummingbird!

It has been announced that OpenText have entered into a definative agreement to acquire Hummingbird and that the deal should be closed in the next few months.

Hummingbird was always an interesting one to watch as an Industry analyst, and now they will be no more. Its sad really but probably was inevitable in such a fiercely consolidating market. I will always remember Hummingbird as innovative with strong technology, and some very loyal customers - but never very successful in marketing themselves.

I first came across Hummingbird around 98/99 when they were PC Docs looking to acquire the cutting edge and market leading enterprise search firm Fulcrum (not sure what happened to that technology!). They did this and promptly fell off the map - again not sure what really happened but boardroom battles were allegedly bloody and brutal. Then Hummingbird came along and picked up the fighting groups and folded them into the larger Hummingbird company. This appeared to many as a very odd partnership - as Hummingbird had no previous history or interest in document management and search, and in fact focused on connectivity products (with a side on data mining if I remember rightly).

Out of this came the new Hummingbird - made up now of many differing pieces! But some very exciting early technology did come out of the situation, I think it is fair to say that Hummingbird pretty much invented (or at least delivered) the very first Portal product for the Enterprise; and possibly more importantly always understood the need to manage (at least from a user perspective) structured and unstructured data together.

How they will fare under the ownership of OpenText is open to question, but OTX do seem to be rebounding strongly and pitching strongly for a leadership (behind EMC) position in the ECM arena. Hopefully they can take the strengths of Hummingbird and build on them further, and also act descisively and potentially spin off some of the overlap or non-core elements of the business quickly.

Speaking in Europe

In the fall I will be keynoting at cmf2006 in Copenhagen and at the ECM Plaza in Rotterdam. The themes in this blog (including the consolidation of the vendors) will likely be picked up there, and as always if you read the blog and plan to be at either event do say hello !

Monday, August 07, 2006

80-20 Formula and ECM

The 80/20 rule is one of the most consistent (though baffling as to why it is consistent) formulas in existence. In ECM we have always looked at the 80% unstructured vs 20% structured data split. But that is a bastardization of the formula which is really more along the lines of 80% revenues to 20% of the players type deal.
Its been the case for some years now that the top 10 vendors take well over 80% of the ECM revenues, but it seems that even more consolidation is on the way. It is still not totally clear who is going to win the battle for Hummingbird, but OpenText appear to have the deal in hand at present. Of course I am biased toward OpenText as they are a fellow ECM firm with I believe a lot of synergies. But we/I do need to remember that Hummingbird is more than and ECM firm, with other product groups such as connectivity to think of. We shall see what happens there, but rumour has it that there are at least 2 other acquistions in the works elsewhere, so the consolidation continues.

But as the consolidation continues, I think it opens the doors for many more to enter. The big enterprise who have huge volumes of seats and complex workflow requirements will always typically go to the market leaders, but the success of open source WCM products shows us that there is still a vibrant sub market (much as Wired Editor Chris Anderson portrays in his Long Tail book) that is both profitable and sustainable, a sub market that is based on specialization to niches and sub niches.

However the issue with ECM is that everyone currently wants to be a suite vendor - and in the world of suites highly specialized vertical offerings are difficult to deliver and continue over time to support. What seems to be happening now is that the OS WCM model is starting to happen in more document and record centric tools (though to a smaller degree as this is a much more mature area), and its a trend I hope continues. However the market dynamics for document centric solutions is very different from Web Centric tools so quite how it will work out is a guess as much as anything.

Side note on Bangalore

Sometimes its the little things that really make an impact on you. The big things do to - like driving past the outdoor market each day and looking at the amazing mountains of bananas and oranges on display, alongside the vibrant flower garlands ready for the Lakshmi festival. But the little things hit you deeper at times.

We drove past lots of shops of course, and the thing that is most noticable is that even though open for business they often don't have their lights on. And never have their lights on if there are no customers inside the shop. Likewise if a scotter or motorbike is stopped even for a minute or so in a traffic jam the rider will turn the key and switch the machine off. I even noticed Apoorv do this in his car whilst on the way to lunch. In the week I counted 7 occasions when the electricity failed - and on a few occasions it seemed to me that I was the only one who noticed, everyone just carried on with whatever else till the back up kicked in.

Whether people consciously realize it or not, in India there is a recognition that power (be it gas or electricity) is a precious commodity - that it enhances life but is not neccesary for life.

How very different to our wasteful ways in the West - I have been stuck for 30mins plus regularly on my drive into Boston and cannot even start to imagine what abuse would be hurled at me were I to turn off the engine at each extended pause in the journey. I suspect if I did it two or three times in a row whilst plodding down Route 3, the police would pull me over.

You can look at this two ways - the people don't earn as much and the power supply is unreliable in India. Or alternatively (my way of viewing it) in India they have a more realistic and sensible attitude to precious resources and one that we may have to adopt sooner rather than later, whether we like it or not.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Bangalore - Center of the Tech Universe

I think I shall post a couple of separate notes to sum up my visit and thoughts. I has been a wonderful week - truly memorable both work wise and personally.

I remain totally fascinated by the Indian Offshore business, for despite its flaws (there are many and they are huge) it is nonetheless an incredible engine for success. And the success to date is so palpable - its really in the air. I experienced (as a frequent visitor) the boom and subsequent bust of Silicon Valley, and the feel in Bangalore is identical to 99 in California.
I say that because I worry that India may face a bust at some time soon also. Not very soon but in coming years, and it seems to me that in some ways it is totally unprepared to deal with the brutality of a bust, and in some ways may be better positioned than the US was.

The thing with India and Indian people is that as a foreigner I can never fully understand the country or the people. I figure by default that I probably know more than some Westerners and I am completely comfortable in India and have Indian friends, some of whom I count as my closest and longest. But though we can converse on many levels, we will never converse on all.

Take for instance the simple issue of saying no and dealing with a confrontational situation (discussed many times this week!). Its just not something that most Indians are comfortable with. Yet many in the West (myself included probably) thrive on the tussle of a tough negotiation - priding ourselves on giving little or nothing but walking away the winner.

The reluctance to be involved in such situations can lead to low margin business model, as you typically come out with a less than optimal deal. Of course the other side of that in context of Indian offshoring is that if the volume is sufficient then small margins are just fine.

Differnet attitudes are also very evident around risk - in the West (particularly the US) we take this as the price of success. Yet in a city of some of the brightest technologists (if not THE best in the World) few will take the innovative leaps due solely to the risk.

Again the twist to that is that India has come out of long period of semi socialist goverment that did little to build the economy. In some ways it is fair to say that the India economy didn't really start (in the modern era till 1991) - so maybe a more cautious approach to risk is the right thing for the country.

I know a good number of senior tech people visit this blog - I urge you to visit Bangalore (or Hyderbad or Chennai etc) and see for yourself what is happening. The reason I urge you is that although alot of tech people visit the region, currently it seems too hands off an arrangement - and I think much more exciting and valuable things lie down the path (beyond calls centers and hosting work!) that mutually we can explore. Far too often there is a sub-contractor type relationship between US companies and service firms in India - and though this makes sense up to a point, it can fail to realize the depth of relationship that delivers real breakthroughs in both technology and efficiencies.

India is a place of contrasts and Bangalore is no exception - poverty is in full view, alongside the gleaming apartment buildings; there are cows in potholed streets obstructing traffic and high tech campuses that would rival anything in San Jose - but if it is those contrasts that meet you, its the vibrancy and depth of culture, the high level of intelligence and capability and the unending friendliness that you will likely leave with.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

ECM in Bangalore!

I can't sleep properly and don't know whether it is night or day - but other than that the trip is going well, and as expected I am learning much about the reality of ECM & Outsourcing, as well as what a great bunch of people Wipro employs :-) I will try and write a more fulsome post at the end of the week - but for now I just thought I would note something in particular (may seem completely out of context with India the home of the sweet lassi and mutter panner - but it has cropped in two conversations already and was nagging me as an issue before flying out here):-

Rendering: it is for me one of the key reasons to use an ECM tool. You store everything in native format, then render out in what ever format is required. So for example I store a multi-page TIFF file, but render out a PDF to the user - or an html page - or an XML document for publishing, or whatever.

Amazingly hardly anyone uses this functionality - even after spending literally millions on ECM tools, that come bundled with these tools. I think for Document Management implementations many of the key 'performance issue' complaints can be traced back to this. If you store something as a 2MB file and always deliver it that way, then performance will be affected. But if you deliver it (render) just to the screen dpi initially with full download an option, then performance and retrieval times are boosted enormously.

I know that many ECM pro's who come to this blog will consider this a no-brainer, but it would seem many of our/your customers just don't understand or appreciate this stuff. Which is frustrating as often it is the simplest things that improve an ECM system, starting to use rendering functionality isone those things.

On a seperate note I am reading "The World is Flat" by Tom Friedman, a book I am sure virutally all the readers of this blog have already read. I bought it with two others at Heathrow (2 for one deal!) Freakanomics and Blink (more books that most readers of this blog will have read). Finished two off on the flight over (hence the sleeping issues I am now facing) and I am now reading through The World is Flat - and it seems pretty odd to be reading this whilst I am actually in Bangalore, the location for so much of the book. Friedman talks about how India is changing and the pace it is changing at. I was here in Bangalore only a year ago and it has changed noticably even in that time. The traffic isn't much better, but Western style Malls (and impressive ones at that) are springing up, and though its still distinctly India the place is becoming much more westernised. And frankly I am not sure if that is a good thing. I also think I am now safe in saying that this is the new Silicon Valley, not just Indias version of it. The scale of R&D going on here, in addition to core hosting and typical downstream work is immense - and the people seem to have an appetite for much more yet. Bangalore is the center of the Worlds technology sector.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Open Source BPM (aka Workflow)

I received an email from Ishmael the CEO of Intalio annoucing the release of their Zero Code Open Source BPMS solution. And though I don't know all that much about this particular product it is I think very illustrative of a couple of things.

Firstly, just how far workflow and business process solutions have come over the past 10 years. For when I joined Ovum my role was to cover Document Management & Workflow - the two things were seen as entwined then, yet even at that time workflow promised much and delivered short. The rename (for I still believe that is what it is) of workflow to BPM in some ways did a disservice to the technology.

(Workflow states very clearly that you follow a series of finite tasks to produce something. Business Process is much more nebulous and over arching as a term.)

Nevertheless the software has moved on and to look at what Intalio does in OpenSource is impressive viewing indeed. This kind of technology was available to those with only the deepest pockets just a few years ago.

The other thing that I thought about is how little has changed (seems to be a theme of this blog) - despite the BPMI's development of BPMN - business analysts still prefer to use Visio. I was personally an adherent of the Scheer toolset when I did business analysis, and wonder at times if the Aris Toolset was OS'd if it wouldn't dominate the business analysis world? But it isn' its and academic question.

The biggest problem with workflow and BPM is knowing how to understand and design an effective process. Its a skillset that is seldom taught properly, and the tools to help support the same are yet to be fully developed......

So BPM (or good old workflow) remains the bridesmaid and never the bride - I have never doubted that this is the area of technology that really needs a breakthrough, a (P word coming up) paradigm shift for it to really suceed.

I wish Intalio luck, I think its great that such Open Source products are available - (and put this in the same impressive category as Nuxeo and Alfresco).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Information Architecture and WCM

It is fascinating to look across multiple situations (different clients in different sectors) and see so may similarities. (As an ex analyst that is of course how one spots trends), and a major trend at the moment seems to be the complete overhauling of B2C Web Sites.

But what is different now to six or seven years ago when most of these were first designed and built? For the technology hasn't really changed that much since then. WCM tools of today are cheaper (much cheaper) than they were in the boom, but the basic functionality and capablities has not changed much at all.

What seems to have changed are user expectations, which are now not neccesarily more complex but certainly more savvy. Another thing that has changed is that a B2C site is now often part of the core business model framework of many firms, rather than the 'me too' exercise they were when first built.

Yet we see so many struggling with the same issues they did in 2000 - and particularly an over emphasis on the power of technology to solve business issues. I mention this as common lore would have us believe that we moved away from that and now recognize that IT is simply a toolset, its mystique has gone. But its not so - or rather the mystique has gone at the IT Department level, but the Board level still seems to have some pretty crazy expectations for technology at times!

In my mind the core to success in any B2C site is Information Architecture - if we do not effectively define the information environment at the start of the project, how can we ever hope to build an efficient solution? At one level IA is simply about organizing and displaying the information in context - in a form that is not only functional but also efficient. To do this we need to be cognizant of many things, including an overall or conceptual design goal, the needs of users, usability, practicality etc. And just to keep IA at that level would be a huge step forward for many organizations, for without that work being undertaken you can almost guarantee disspointment.

I really don't know why IA as a discipline has so far failed to take off - a shortage of practitioners, no major industry body to promote it, industry analyst uninterested as its not technology?

Whatever the reason/s, if it continues to take a backseat we will all feel the pain down the line - IA really needs to be promoted agressively as a vital element of the Web deployment consulting process.

Information Architecture is (or should be) real 'Architecture' it deals with the essentials of form and design. I think that there is an interesting parallel that in the US we see more and more houses built without the use of an Architect, the net result is the McMansion - a proportionaly idiotic building that somehow manages to provide 4000 square foot of living area, yet manages to be noisy, difficult to heat and cool and often with remarkably cramped rooms. A well Architected house of 1700 square feet, can feel open, comfortable and remain easy to heat and cool.

A good website Architected by a professional IA is a joy to behold, but most often we see electronic data versions of McMansions.